How To Make A Telemarketing Complaint

What to Do If You Still Get Calls

A vacant telemarketing call center
Do Not Call Forces Philadelphia Telemarketing Firm To Close. William Thomas Cain / Getty Images

 

The Federal Communication Commission has released specific steps consumers should take if they have put their phone numbers on the National Do-Not-Call Registry and are called by telemarketers on or after October 1, 2003.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) share responsibility for enforcing the National Do-Not-Call list. 

If You are Called by Telemarketers, You Can Do the Following

  • If you have registered your telephone number on the National Do-Not-Call list, tell the telemarketer that you are on the list. Make a note of the time and date of the call, and the identity of the telemarketer for your records. You will need this information if you elect to file a complaint; OR
  • If you are not registered on the National Do-Not-Call list, you can still instruct the telemarketer to place you on its company-specific do-not-call list if you do not want to receive further calls from that company. For your own reference, make a note of the date and time you asked to be put on the company-specific list. Having this information may be helpful if you get called again by the same company and wish to file a complaint with the FCC; OR
  • Explore whether your state has its own do-not-call list. Contact your State Attorney General or State office that administers the list for more information. Filing a Complaint The FCC and the FTC will both accept complaints and share information, so consumers may file complaints with either agency. In addition to complaints alleging violations of the do-not-call list, you may also file a complaint against a telemarketer who is calling for a commercial purpose (e.g., not charitable organizations).
  • The telemarketer calls before 8 AM or after 9 PM; OR
  • The telemarketer leaves a message, but fails to leave a phone number that you can call to sign up for their company specific do-not-call list; OR
  • You receive a telemarketing call from an organization whom you have previously requested not call you; OR
  • The telemarketing firm fails to identify itself; OR
  • You receive a pre-recorded commercial message or "robocall" from someone with whom you do not have an established business relationship and to whom you haven't given permission to call you. (Most pre-recorded commercial messages are unlawful, even if no do-not-call request has been made).

How to File a Complaint

For consumers who registered their numbers before September 1, 2003, those registrations have taken effect, and consumers may file a complaint at any time if they receive telemarketing calls.

For those consumers who registered their telephone numbers after August 31, 2003, the registration takes 90 days to become effective, so those consumers can complain about calls that they receive three months or more after their registration.

Complaints should be filed online on the FCC's Telemarketing Complaints web page.

Your Complaint Should Include

  • name, address, and telephone number where you can be reached during the business day;
  • the telephone number involved with the complaint; and
  • as much specific information as possible, including the identity of the telemarketer or company contacting you, the date on which you put your number on the national Do-Not-Call registry or made a company-specific do-not-call request, and the date(s) of any subsequent telemarketing call(s) from that telemarketer or company.

If mailing a complaint, send it to: Federal Communications Commission Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division 445 12th Street, SW Washington, DC 20554 Consumer Private Right of Action In addition to filing a complaint with the FCC or FTC, consumers may explore the possibility of filing an action in a state court.

Preventing Unwanted Calls In the First Place

Filing a complaint after the fact can help, there are steps consumers can take to at least reduce the number of unwanted telemarketing phone calls they receive.

According to the FTC, adding a phone number to the more than 217 million numbers already on the Do Not Call Registry should stop “most” unwanted sales calls. The Telemarketing Sales Law allows political calls, calls from charitable organizations, informational calls, calls about debts owed, and phone surveys or polls, as well as calls from companies consumer has done business with in the past or given permission to call them.

What about “robocalls” — automated recorded messages pitching a product or service? The FTC warns that most of them are scams. Consumers who get robocalls should never press phone buttons to “request to speak to someone or be taken off the call list.” Not only will they not get to speak to someone, they will just end up getting more unwanted calls. Instead, consumers should simply hang up and report details of the call to the Federal Trade Commission online or call the FTC at 1-888-382-1222.

FCC Takes Action to Prevent Robocalls

What about “robocalls” — automated recorded messages pitching a product or service? Robocalls are a daily annoyance for many Americans, and they have been rising in recent years, with some estimates showing that billions are made per month.

The FTC warns that most robocalls are scams. Consumers who get robocalls should never press phone buttons to “request to speak to someone or be taken off the call list.” Not only will they not get to speak to someone, but they will also just end up getting more unwanted calls. Instead, consumers should simply hang up and report details of the call to the Federal Trade Commission online or call the FTC at 1-888-382-1222. 

In March 2021, the FCC announced its first set of actions taken to combat unwanted robocalls. These actions include issuing the largest robocall fine in FCC history, demanding certain voice telephone service providers cease-and-desist from facilitating illegal robocalls, launching a Robocall Response Team, and delivering letters to the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice, and the National Association of State Attorneys General to renew state-federal partnerships to combat the proliferation of illegal robocalls.

Specific anti-robocall actions taken by the FCC have included:


On March 17, 2021, the FCC fined two Texas-based telemarketers a record $225 million for placing approximately 1 billion illegally disguised robocalls in an attempt to sell short-term, limited-duration health insurance plans. The robocalls falsely claimed to offer health insurance plans from well-known health insurance companies such as Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and United Health Group. The FCC has fined telemarketers over $450 million in recent years. 

The FCC sent cease-and-desist letters to six telemarketers that had repeatedly violated FCC guidelines on the use of auto dialed and prerecorded voice message calls and in one case had received prior agency warnings to stop carrying out suspected illegal robocall operations.

In December 2019, Congress passed the TRACED Act, which increased potential fines for single robocalls to $10,000 and requires major carriers to update their systems to make it more difficult for telemarketers to falsely spoof numbers that show up on Caller ID.

Also in March 2021, the FCC launched its Robocall Response Team (RRT), a group of 51 FCC staff members tasked with coordinating and implementing the agency’s anti-robocall efforts. According to the FCC, the RRT will solidify efforts to enforce the law against providers of illegal robocalls, develop new policies to authenticate calls and trace illegal robocalls, and educate providers and other stakeholders about what they can do to help.

Finally, the FCC sent letters to the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice, and the National Association of State Attorneys General seeking to renew partnerships to combat robocalls. The letters expressed a renewed interest in coordination between the FCC and other federal and state entities that could ultimately benefit consumers by leveraging their combined knowledge, skills, and jurisdictional authority in combating illegal robocalls. 

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Longley, Robert. "How To Make A Telemarketing Complaint." ThoughtCo, Jan. 2, 2022, thoughtco.com/how-to-make-a-telemarketing-complaint-3319968. Longley, Robert. (2022, January 2). How To Make A Telemarketing Complaint. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-make-a-telemarketing-complaint-3319968 Longley, Robert. "How To Make A Telemarketing Complaint." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-make-a-telemarketing-complaint-3319968 (accessed December 7, 2022).